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Could the Demolition of Prentice Hospital Inspire a Preservation Renaissance?

Last week, the long saga over the preservation of Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Hospital entered its nadir with the start of demolition. But could the intensity of the building's defense lead to a reinvigoration of preservation around Modernism?
October 16, 2013, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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More than a decade before construction began on Chicago's Prentice Hospital, the demolition of New York's Penn Station helped to launch the modern preservation movement. As the buildings birthed by the era that gave the preservation movement its impetus come of age, a similar groundswell is necessary to protect the works of modernism, says Michael R. Allen. And "the controversy surrounding the demolition of Prentice," he notes, "injected the preservation movement into an urban design discussion with a presence not seen in a long time."

"Today a cadre of younger preservationists embraces suburban ranch houses with the same fervor as the concrete masses of Brutalism. Yet many planners and developers still see modernist works as expendable, either based on style or the same accusations of obsolescence that were aimed at buildings like the Chicago Stock Exchange 40 years ago. Official preservation mechanisms, like the National Register of Historic Places, have been slow to recognize buildings from the recent past."

"Prentice Hospital may well be a new era’s Pennsylvania Station," he argues. "The fall of Prentice offers a similar fulcrum in the wide public appreciation of modernist architecture, and in the renewal of a movement that must show its relevance to the challenges cities face in the 21st century."

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Published on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 in Next City
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